The Goose Girl Story
Once there was a princess who was betrothed to a prince whom she had never met. He lived in a distant kingdom. When it was time for the princess to join him there, her mother, a kind and generous queen, gathered clothes and jewels, linens and ornaments, to supply her daughter with everything necessary for her new home.
The queen gave her daughter one last gift.
“This is my royal ring,” said the queen. “When you arrive at your new castle, this ring will prove who you are.”
The princess slipped the ring onto her finger and joined her companions for the journey. These included a lady-in-waiting from the castle, and her beloved horse Falada, who had the gift of speech.
The little group set off. After a time, the princess grew thirsty, so they stopped by a stream. The princess knelt daintily on the bank and drank from her cupped hands.
As she dipped her hands into the water, her mother’s ring slid from her finger. The princess did not notice, but the lady-in-waiting did. The maid waded into the stream and plucked the ring from the current.”Dear princess,” said the lady-in-waiting, “look what I found in the stream.” She held out the royal ring.
“Oh, dear!” cried the princess. “You have saved me.”
“Yes, I have,” said the maid. “Perhaps I should keep this ring for you. And look how you’ve muddied your gown. You should allow me to take charge of all your belongings. I will ride Falada and keep them safe for you.”
“You are very good to me,” said the princess. And she switched her clothes and her horse with the maid.
When the travelers reached the castle, the king and the prince were waiting.
“Show me to my room,” the lady-in-waiting demanded haughtily. “I am very tired and hungry.” The king was surprised by the young lady’s rudeness. But he said politely, “We are delighted that you have arrived safely, Princess.”
Then he turned to the real princess, assuming that she was the servant. “We will also find room for you. We understand you are to be our new goose girl. Welcome.”
“Thank you,” she replied. “But I am the princess.”
The lady-in-waiting laughed. “You? Your clothes are mere rags.” The maid extended her hand to display the queen’s ring. “This ring proves that I am the princess.”
The king sent the astonished princess off with the goose boy, Conrad. She did not know what to do! Each morning, the princess and Conrad led the geese to the meadow. Each night, she slept on straw in the barn.
One day, the princess found Falada in a pasture in the farthest corner of the kingdom. He was grazing by a fence.
“Falada!” she called. “I have found you. How are you?”
“I am well,” said Falada. “I am exactly where a horse should be. But you are not where a princess should be.”
The princess and her beloved Falada talked for a long time. After that, the princess insisted that she and Conrad take the geese to Falada’s pasture each day. Conrad soon grew tired of trudging out to the far pasture every morning. He went to complain to the king.
“She talks to that horse all day,” Conrad told him.
“And the horse talks to her?” asked the puzzled king.
“Yes,” said Conrad. “He tells her how brokenhearted the queen would be to see her daughter tending geese.”
The curious king visited the pasture himself. He saw that Conrad was right. The goose girl was the true princess!
That night, the king asked the lady-in-waiting a question. “If someone has deceived me by pretending she is a princess,” he said, “should she be made to tend geese?”
The maid smiled, thinking he described the princess. “No, your majesty,” she answered. “Such a girl belongs in the stable, cleaning up after the horses.”
The king nodded. “That is just what you shall do.” When the king returned the royal ring to the princess, he humbly apologized. “I should have recognized a true princess by her goodness and grace, not by her fine clothes and jewels,” he told her.
The princess forgave the king. She and the prince were soon married, and everyone lived happily ever after — except for the poor stable girl.